From the New Testament, from the book of Hebrews, comes these words that should cause us to pause . . .
- “. . . for our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29 – NASB)
Yesterday afternoon I was reading from John MacArthur’s new book, Strange Fire. In his introduction he relates the record of the startling way in which God dealt with Nadab and Abihu, Levite priests who were the sons of Aaron, Moses’ brother. Have you ever read this account? I can only say, as one who believes strongly in the truth of the Bible, that this is a most sobering portion of Scripture to read . . . and as I reflect on it, it causes me to tremble (cf. Isaiah 66:5).
These two men were priests of the Most High God, the next in line to fill Aaron’s position as High Priest to Israel. As MacArthur notes, “their names head the list of ‘nobles of the sons of Israel'” (Exodus 24:11), men who were granted the great privilege of going half-way up the mountain when God met with Moses (Exodus 24:9-10). The people of Israel had been ordered to keep their distance from the mountain lest they be destroyed (Exodus 19:12), but these two men were allowed to ascend half-way, “and they beheld God, and they ate and drank” (Exodus 24:11). But note what became the fate of Nadab and Abihu,
- “Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took their respective firepans, and after putting fire in them, placed incense on it and offered strange fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them. And fire cam out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD. Then Moses said to Aaron, ‘It is what the LORD spoke, saying, ‘By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy, and before all the people I will be honored.’ ” (Leviticus 10:1-3 _ NASB)
MacArthur writes, “Apparently Nadab and Abihu had filled their censers with fire of their own making.” Whatever it was Dr. MacArthur notes, “The point is they used something other than the fire God Himself had ignited,” fire that probably should have come from the “brazen altar.” They were guilty of coming to a “holy” God with “strange fire.” They were, in their act of service, guilty of taking God lightly and taking what God had commanded lightly. MacArthur notes,
- “Their offense may seem trifling to someone accustomed to the type of casual, self-indulgent worship our generation is known for . . . (but) The ‘strange fire’ of Nadab and Abihu ignited the unquenchable flames of divine judgment against them, and they were incinerated on the spot.”
Nadab and Abihu, may have been guilty of drinking, as Leviticus 10:9 suggests, but what they did violated the very holiness of God, taking lightly the revelation of Himself to His people, setting aside that . . . .
- “By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy”
The Lord our God is holy, this is made clear in Isaiah 6:1-3 and Revelation 4:8, in both the Old and New Testament. And He “will be treated as holy, and before all the people (He) will be honored.” And He is also “a consuming fire,” another characteristic that is made clear in both Testaments (cf. Deuteronomy 4:24; note also Psalm 68:2). Yes, we live in a time of grace, that is true, but so did Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5), and so did the believers in Corinth who abused the Lord’s Supper (I Corinthians 11:27-30).
Nadab and Abihu and their demise is recorded for us to learn from regarding our God. Paul wrote to the Philippian believers,
- ” . . . work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12 – NASB)
. . . . cognizant of the fact that worship and service to the Lord is to be as He instructs in His Word (John 4:24), His truth. It is not something to be taken lightly . . . . . our God is no One to be taken lightly. His Word and instruction is not to be dealt with flippantly. As the author of Hebrews reminds us,
- “It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31 – NASB)
Have a good day . . . . and as you walk do so with an intent to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, in reverence for He who is holy, holy, holy.
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